A Cute Animal Encounter

May 21, 2016   I went to Tempaiko Koen last week early in the morning. As I was setting up a tripod to try and photograph a common kingfisher, I heard some rustling in the grass behind me. I turned around and saw the tall grasses moving as an animal approached in my direction. I couldn’t see it until it was right beside me, and then it’s head popped up above the grass.  I was expecting it to be a raccoon dog, (tanuki)  but it was a  Japanese badger, (anaguma)! They are endemic to Japan, but decreasing in numbers, mostly due to habitat loss.They are also nocturnal, so I was surprised it was out in daylight.  It was the first time for me to see one. It sniffed the air for a few seconds, and then continued walking slowly in the same direction until it disappeared over the  far bank of the lake. I’m pretty sure it smelled me, but it didn’t seem to be alarmed by my presence.

Tempai Dam Lake

Early morning at Tempai Lake Park, (Tempaiko Koen)

badger, anaguma

a Japanese badger, (anaguma)

Siberian meadow bunting, hojiro

A Siberian meadow bunting, (houjiro) perching on the fence that surrounds Tempai Lake.


A night at Hoshinomura

5/6/2016     Since I was a young boy, I have always been interested in most things having to do with nature and the outdoors.  I would sometimes grab a tent and spend a night out camping, alone or with my friend.  It was great laying on our backs out in a field or maybe the front yard,  gazing up into the night sky, hoping to see a shooting star flash by, or maybe a satellite.  I saved up my money for quite some time in order to buy a telescope I had my eye on in the Sears catalogue. When it  was finally delivered,  it remained cloudy for a week! Finally it cleared up and I was able to see 5 or 6 moons of Jupiter and the elliptical shape of the rings of Saturn.  That was so cool.                    

       This interest in the heavens has remained with me, so I thought why not try my hand at astrophotography. First I had to learn the basics,  and then just go out and  try my best at learning the rest through trial and error.  A few days back, the skies were clear and the moon was not out, so I drove to Hoshinomura,( village of stars) the nearest place with low levels of light pollution, where I would hopefully be able to see the Milky Way.  It did start to rise above the horizon at around midnight, and at 2:00, I began shooting photos, experimenting with ISO, etcetera. The Milky Way pictures were taken at aperture  2.8, ISO 1600, 30 second exposures.  Mars was the same aperature, ISO 3200, 13 second exposure.  

In one picture there is a meteor trail, and I thought it might possibly be a Scorpiid meteor, as it was coming out the constellation Scorpio, and the Scorpiid meteor shower was active. I overlaid the constellation and labeled some planets and the star Antares. Mars is brighter than Saturn (and will almost equal Jupiter’s magnitude on May 22) because it is almost at it’s closest  point to Earth, (opposition) this year. About 75 million kilometers.  In 2018, it will be  even closer at 56 million kilometers.        The star Antares, which means anti mars because of its reddish color,  is a red supergiant nearing the end of its life. It’s radius is greater than  the distance to Mars, which means that if it were in the same position as the sun, it’s surface would engulf Mars!  It will go supernova eventually, becoming as bright as our own galaxy. Antares is also known as ‘the heart of the scorpion as it’s pinkish red, and in the body of Scorpio. supergiant        The Milky Way at Hoshinomura


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Some Flora & Fauna of Yasu Kogen

5/3/2016   Yesterday was a fine day, so I drove up into the mountains and did some hiking around Yasu Kogen. There is a large public park there popular with the locals where I sometimes go early in the morning  to avoid the crowds and catch the good light for photography. For the most part, the birds were proving to be rather elusive, so I pointed the camera to other flora and fauna. I noticed a species of brush-footed butterfly (satyrinae) flitting around a sawtooth oak, (kunagi). It was attracted to the sweet smell of sap which was leaking from a branch. As I was taking a close up picture of the butterfly (and some flies), an Asian giant hornet, (suzumebachi) suddenly buzzed in and scared away all the insects from the oozing sap. It was intent on drinking the sweet sap, and allowed me to place the lens very close for these pictures. In the second photo, just in front of the hornet, you can see a species of assassin bug lurking. It is not there for the sap. Rather it is waiting there for a proper-sized insect to ambush. It will pounce on it and quickly stab it with it’s rostrum, (straw-like mouth part), to inject a paralyzing toxin, and then sucks out the juices, like a single-fanged spider!

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If you’re interested, click on the link below to learn more about the fascinating giant hornet.

Source: Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) – Animals – A-Z Animals – Animal Facts, Information, Pictures, Videos, Resources and Links

A Japanese 5-lined skink, ((Nihon tokage) soaking up the early morning sun. Notice the end of it’s tail is regenerating.

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This time of year, I sometimes find this beautiful bloom, often on the edge of roads near shady trees. It is called the Japanese fringed iris, (shaga).  Notice the small male Japanese cedar pollen cone, (I think) nestled in the center of the flower in the second picture.


fringed iris, shaga

This is a Hwamei (Chinese meaning is painted eyebrow) , native to China, which was introduced to Japan and Hawaii, among others, for it’s beautiful song. They are also known as the Chinese melodious laughing thrush. Unfortunately, they are caged in some countries, China and Singapore among others, for their song.

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